Rambo the Grappler?

As we’ve mentioned before, Japan is often late to the Hollywood blockbuster party. With a lucrative movie theater industry, highly localized marketing, and little piracy, it’s not unusual for a film to open in Japan weeks, or even months, after its overseas debut.

The latest example is Rambo: Last Blood, which came out way back on September 20 in the U.S. That’s so long ago that not only has it completed its North American theatrical run, Amazon USA has already discounted the Blu-ray by over 50 percent.

And yet, Last Blood won’t have its Japanese premiere for another two weeks, finally opening in Japan on June 26. However, while the movie has taken its sweet time coming to Japan, it’s at least arriving with a sweet piece of promotional art: an official portrait of protagonist John Rambo/series star Sylvester Stallone!

If something seems familiar about all that visceral veininess and dripping muscular masculinity, it’s probably because the portrait was drawn by none other than Keisuke Itagaki, creator of manga Grappler Baki. Debuting almost 30 years ago, Baki has fought its way to the top of anime/manga’s ever-competitive super-ripped-dudes-punching-each-other genre, and so Itagaki was a natural choice to capture Rambo’s old-school buffness in illustrated form.

▼ A same-angle comparison

Online reactions have included:

“Even when I saw the overseas posters, I thought ‘That totally looks like Keisuke Itagaki artwork.”
“He did a really good job recreating Rambo’s eyebrows.”
“He looks like he doesn’t need any weapons to kill you.”
“Actually, using weapons is just a way for him to suppress his full killing power.”
“Now I want to see Rambo fight [Baki opponent] Gaia.”
“Can we have Itagaki draw portraits for future Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis action movies too?”

The praise hasn’t been 100-percent universal, with some calling it over-the-top and one commenter likening the excessive aesthetics to “pouring curry on an ice cream parfait.” But really, if subtlety is what you’re looking for, you were never going to find it in Baki or the new Rambo anyway.

Reference: Twitter/板垣恵介 ランボー, Twitter/@livedoornews
Source, images: Press release
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he can’t help but also notice the parallel of how both Baki and Rambo’s series got progressively crazier as time went on.